Grease Is The Word (That Plumbers Hate)

Grease is animal fat in a liquid form, the byproduct of frying foods. However, animal fats are solid at or below room temperature. Unfortunately, some homeowners believe that they can pour grease down their kitchen sink drain and that it will remain in liquid form until it reaches the main sewer line and is carried away with waste water.

Grease will actually accumulate along the inner surfaces of the drain pipes and harden as it cools, forming a powerful clog. Some misguided individuals will pour boiling water down the drain after dumping hot grease, assuming that it will keep the grease in liquid form until it can clear the drain line.

However, this only delays hardening long enough to allow the grease access to a deeper and less accessible area of the drain line before it congeals. Instead of clogging the sink trap directly below the sink, which is removed and cleaned easily, the liquid grease is flushed farther into the drain line by the boiling water to harden and form a blockage.

Kitchen drain cleaning from the top down

The sink drain cup

It's always best to start any unpleasant task at the point of least resistance, so if your kitchen sink is clogged, you should first inspect the drain cup at the top of the sink drain. The spokes of the drain cup may have snagged some large pieces of food as you rinsed a dish or saucepan.

Grease may also have solidified between the spokes and closed off the holes. If the drain holes are clogged, remove any clogging agents by pulling them out; don't push them through the holes and create a clog further down the line. If all is well atop the sink, it's time to venture beneath it.

The sink trap

Trapping clogging agents before they can travel farther into the drain line is the job of the sink trap. This fitting is shaped like the letter "J" and is attached to the drain pipe that leads from the sink. It is shaped this way to hold water, which allows it not only to trap troublesome materials (such as grease) that are placed into the sink drain, but also to keep noxious sewer gases from entering the kitchen from the sewer line.

You can remove the sink trap by using an adjustable wrench to loosen the two plastic nuts that hold it in place. It will be filled with disgusting smelly water and sludge, so keep it upright as you remove it.

After cleaning out the sink trap (a bottle brush works nicely, but you can use whatever you have that can navigate the curves inside the trap), replace it by tightening the two nuts. If you still have a slow drain or a complete blockage, you can try a plunger.

Taking the plunge

When using a plunger, you must form a tight seal around the sink drain in order to create enough pressure inside the drain line to dislodge a clog. Grease is especially difficult to remove because it becomes a solid at room temperature and can form layers inside your drain pipes until they are completely closed by a solid mass.

You must keep the plunger upright and the seal intact as you vigorously push and pull the plunger in an up and down motion. You may also choose to use a pump style plunger, which resembles a small air pump for filling tires. This type of plunger is easier to hold in place with one hand while depressing the plunger handle with the other hand. A pump style plunger forces air into the drain pipes and pushes the clog out (hopefully).

If the plunger doesn't work, you'll need to use a drain snake. This is a thin flexible metal cable that is twisted into the drain line. An auger on the end of the cable will either work its way through a grease clog or snag other types of clogging agents and pull them free. If you decide to use a snake, you will need to remove the sink trap again and enter the drain line through the pipe that leads away from the sink. However, if you decide on the snake, you will encounter an accumulated buildup of black sludge that coats the inside of the pipes, smells terrible, and stains and contaminates everything it touches.

It might be best to take the time to visit a site like and call a plumber or a sewer service. They will have power equipment that can remove stubborn clogs, even the hated grease, with a surprising ease, and spare you the flashbacks of an encounter with the monstrous ooze that lurks with your drains and sewer system.